By Joseph Robertia
Hunting is about so much more than killing an animal. It is about leaving a land of clean shaves, pressed attire, business meetings and punctual appointments. It is about escape from the routines and roles of daily life — employee, spouse or parent.
All of these are temporarily traded for the hope of having a significant life experience. One developed from bonding with other like-minded hunters, while also intrinsically exploring oneself, and not just living in, but becoming a part of, the natural world. At least, that is what a recent caribou hunt was for Marcus Mueller, of Kenai.
“This was so much more than a meat run,” he said. “It was an exploratory getaway filled with camaraderie. It turned out to be a great adventure. Around every corner was something unexpected.”
His words are particularly underscored by the uncharted nature of his fall hunt this year. Every hunt is different from the last, but Mueller was one of only 10 hunters drawn to hunt the Fox River caribou herd. Primarily residing in the pristine and rugged area from the mouth of the Fox River to the south of Tustumena Glacier, this herd was down to around 20 animals at one point, but now is up to around 65 to 70 animals, so for the first time since 2003 the Alaska Department of Fish and Game allocated 10 permits to this region.
“We got into all new, undiscovered country for us,” Mueller said.
Hunting is challenging enough, but hunting in an entirely new area adds more difficulty than just heading out to the same tree stand year after year. Mueller knew he and hunting buddy John Hedges, of Soldotna, had a lot of work ahead of them before ever venturing into the field.
“I knew it was on the peninsula, but no other logistics,” he said. “I got maps of the area, went by Fish and Game, and tried to talk to anyone with knowledge of that country. I got all the info I could and it all pointed to the same thing — there was no easy access to get into this area.” Continue reading